Monday, November 30, 2009

Begin with the End in Mind

(Some of my thoughts for yesterday's homily.)

The beginning of the Church Year with the First Sunday of Advent is, I think, rather jarring. Based on the increasing volume of Christmas music from the secular culture and the fact that the Christmas shopping season is in full bloom, we Catholic likely expect to begin hearing about the impending birth of Jesus during Advent: those familiar stories of Mary visiting Elizabeth, Joseph and the dreams of the Angels, etc.

Rather, we get a rather grim story of Jesus describing the end of time, yikes! Instead of looking back to where we have come from, we look towards where we are going. As with any good term paper, we begin with the end in mind.

By doing so, the Church gently (or not so gently, really) asks each of us: 'Where are you going?' If you were to give an account of your life today, would there be enough evidence to 'convict' you of being a follower of Christ? We often think of it in other terms: is there evidence to send us to Hell? I think the other view-point is much more striking and more urgent.

So what are we to make of such a striking beginning to the year? What is the 'end' that we begin with? Simply: salvation. The Code of Canon Law makes this very clear: the highest law in the Church is the salvation of souls. That is why the Church exists.

She does not exist to be a social justice organization. She does not exist to provide education for our children. She does not exist to be a pro-life messanger. She exists to save souls. All these other things are guided by this principal. All the rules and regulations in the Church, all that she teaches and proclaims is guided by this maxim, all that she does should be viewed through this lens: Salvation of Souls.

As we journey through Advent, where does your pilgramige of life lead you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Spirit in the Life of a Priest

Join host Brian Patrick and I tomorrow morning as we continue our discussion of Pope John Paul II's 'Letters to Priests.' This week, we'll tackle the 1990 Letter which anticipates the 1990 Synod of Bishops on ongoing formation and training of priests, which resulted in Pastores Dabo Vobis and focuses on the role of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Priests.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vocation Week Highlights Priesthood

If you were wondering why its been terribly quiet around here, maybe this Press Release sent out this morning from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will help answer:

For the third year in a row, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Vocation Office has produced educational resources to be used by all Catholic grade schools, high schools, home school groups, parishes and family homes for the upcoming Vocation Awareness Week, January 10-16, 2010.

The materials for this year’s packet follow the theme “You are a priest forever,” from Psalm 110, and focus on the various aspects of the priesthood, including its origin, its importance, the role of the laity in relation to it and the various Catholic teachings surrounding its implementation and practice.

Additionally, “one of the goals in creating these materials is to encourage and help the average Catholic to grow in appreciation for the priests of the Archdiocese and the world,” says Wayne Topp, Associate Vocation Director. “It really is an all-inclusive program that has tackled as many aspects of the Catholic priesthood that we thought possible in one week’s worth of lesson plans.”

As in previous years, the office has produced lesson plans to cover just about every parish need, including pre-school, primary grades, intermediate grades, junior high and high school lesson plans, as well as young adult and adult faith formation discussion guides, a family faith formation document, youth ministry plans, a collection of prayers for priests, and tons of additional web-based resources. What is unique about this program compared to any other program that can be found on the web is the depth of catechesis and the way in which the information is presented to the teacher.

“Teachers, catechists, group leaders and youth ministers can easily print out the lesson plan and implement it as is or they can easily adapt it to fit their groups needs,” says Topp, who was in charge of coordinating this year’s efforts. Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, is very satisfied with this year’s product as well. “We really put a lot of time and energy into making this program the best it could possibly be and we are proud of our results,” he says. He also mentions that while the focus of these materials is on the priesthood and the Year for Priests, the materials are not meant to be exclusively “for the boys.”

“By increasing the awareness among all Catholics of the nature of the priesthood and the sacrifice of following God’s will into the ministerial priesthood,” he says, “we also increase the awareness of the need to discern our own vocation and the absolute necessity in supporting one another as we courageously follow God’s will, especially into the priesthood and religious life.”

Both Fr. Schnippel and Mr. Topp encourage the wide use and distribution of these materials in parishes and schools so that all may come to a deeper appreciation for the priesthood in this Year for Priests. To access these materials, visit the Vocation Office website at and click on Vocation Awareness Week. If you do not have internet access and would like any of the materials for this year, call 513-421-3131 x2860.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 26th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with almost 500,000 Catholics, and has the eighth largest network of Catholic schools in terms of enrollment. The 19-county territory includes 218 parishes and 113 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Should Women be Ordained Catholic Priests? (video report)

Fox's local station, Channel 19 in Cincinnati, did a video report that aired last night during the 10:00 pm news on Women's Ordination in the Church. I was interviewed for the report, which runs to three minutes in length:

My quibble: she asks 'Where is it in the Bible?' Remember, we hold that Jesus is the Revelation of God in the fullness and that His Revelation is expressed both in written form in the Scriptures, but also in living form in Tradition. And it is quite apparent from both, taken together, that this is something that cannot change.

All in all, though, I am happy with the report. The truth was conveyed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Check the news tomorrow

Tomorrow (Sunday) evening, 10 PM news on Cincinnati's Fox Channel 19, I am interviewed for a feature on women's ordination in the Catholic Church. I thought the interview went well, but you never know how these things will be broken up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A few updates from the Vocation Office

First, I haven't given an update on the last Andrew Dinner that we had Wednesday evening at St. Andrew's. We had 38 (!) young men attend the dinner, all at various levels of interest in the seminary (but with some interest nonetheless!)

That puts us well over 100 (mostly) high school men who have attended the 4 Andrew Dinners that we held around the diocese this fall. While I had secretly hoped to achieve that number, I wasn't sure it was possible. Thanks to the priests who brought the men from their parishes to the respective dinners, without their support, it would not be possible!

Also, the Vocation Views for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are now published on the Vocation Office website: Many parishes use these in their weekly bulletins, check to see if your parish includes them!

I think that's it for now, I'm off the interweb for the weekend, so behave yourselves!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Petrine Authority

My latest appears in this week's Catholic Telegraph, (as if I had already given you enough to read today!):

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a conference sponsored by the Coming Home Network focused on the issue of papal authority in the Church: how it developed and what it means for the Church today. The main focus of ministry for the Coming Home Network is to assist former Protestant clergy in ‘coming home’ to the Catholic Church. With a membership of well over a thousand, Marcus Grodi and his team have been very successful.

With a clientele such as this, it is easy to see why the issue of Petrine Authority passed down through the Papacy is of vital importance. As Protestant clergy, many of their membership have had to struggle with this issue: did the commissioning of Peter by Jesus in Matthew 16 as the Rock upon whom Jesus would build the Church continue after Peter’s death, was it handed on to his successors?

For many of our separated brothers and sisters, Peter’s authority died with him. But for us, as Catholics, we believe that this authority is not connected just with Peter the man, but also with the office that he inaugurated: the Papacy.

We seem to take it for granted that Peter is the leader of the Twelve, but we look back through two thousand years of history where this principal has long since been established. But looking into the Scriptures, we never see his authority challenged, he is always clearly in charge, at least after the Resurrection.

Some modern scholars, especially in Protestant circles, argue that this is because those areas where Peter was challenged were whitewashed out of the Scriptures. The argument follows that as the Papacy became established, the popes had the Scriptures redacted to remove any objectionable aspects. If so, why did they keep the immediate follow-up to the Commissioning of Peter where Jesus calls him Satan? If the popes had the ability to cleanse the Scriptures, certainly they would have gotten rid of Matthew 16:23!

The fruits of modern biblical scholarship do not support this thesis, either. Critical editions of the Scriptures outline all the various versions that have come down to us through the ages. The oldest fragments of writings of the New Testament date from the middle part of the Second Century, and these ancient sources corroborate very well with the Scriptures as we have received them today. Simply, there is no evidence to support the various claims.

Rather, we can take it on faith that Peter assumed the leadership of the nascent Christian community right from the start. We have no record otherwise. But the interesting question that drove the conversation at the Conference was: “How did Peter assume this authority so quickly, and without challenge?”

To find this answer, we return to the passage in Matthew (16:13-20) where Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of keys, it is easy to think just of the small ring of keys that we keep in our pocket, keys to the house, the car and the office. But this was not so in the time of Jesus. The key to the Temple was massive, a three foot long beam with a few prongs on the end to reach through the door of the Temple and unlock the gates. It was carried on the shoulder of the one who had possession, and he served in the name of the king or High Priest, and shared in the authority by virtue of the office he had.

As the Disciples heard Jesus give Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, this was the image that they conjured, very clearly having Peter take on the authority of leadership by virtue of his office and in the name of Christ. These Keys are then passed down throughout the generations, even to Pope Benedict.

We are then able to trust that God has not left us orphans, but has provided an office by which we can know for sure that He is still with us. Let us rejoice in the Lord that we have been given so great a gift as the Papacy and Magisterium to safeguard and transmit the deposit of faith over these last 2000 years.

Get Ready for some Explosions

Bishop Olmstead, rector of the Josephinum during my time there as an undergrad, pens another extraordinary article for the Year for Priests in his diocesan paper:


Get ready for explosions

The history of the Church is a history of martyrs. The 20th century saw more martyrs than any previous ones. Rather than stifling her growth, fierce persecution has had the opposite effect. It has made the faith grow stronger. This is certainly true in Mexico, through the faithful witness of Blessed Miguel Pro and his many companion-martyrs.

Should we expect, in our day, not to face opposition for the sake of the Gospel? Should we priests expect to be treated with honor in the public square, or should we rather expect to share not only in Christ’s priesthood but also in his mission as victim? We would do well to remember the words of the Maryknoll missionary to China, Bishop James Edward Walsh, who wrote: “Christianity is not a private way of salvation and a guide to a pious life; it is a way of world salvation and a philosophy of total life. This makes it a sort of dynamite. So when you send missioners out to preach it, it is well to get ready for some explosions.”

Thanks to New Advent

Andrew Dinners Report

The Catholic Telegraph runs a report from our fall round of Andrew Dinners in this week's edition. They have been met with great success so far, and with a good turnout for our last dinner for this fall tonight, we should have over 100 young men, mostly high school juniors and seniors, attend and hear about the possibility of seminary for college.

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — The young men enjoying dinner at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Oct. 28 talked of the usual things high school boys discuss: school, grades and the high school football playoffs.

But these young men also spoke of the seminary and their possible call to the priesthood at the third Andrew Dinner held this fall in the Cincinnati archdiocese. The dinners allow men, mostly juniors and seniors in high school, to learn more about the priesthood.

Eighteen students from the west side of Cincinnati attended the dinner. They were joined by several priests and Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr.

The evening included a social time, dinner, a presentation and questions and answers. It ended with the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours in the church.

The only question I have is how did Rich beat me to the punch on this one?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1989 Letter to Priests

Join host Brian Patrick and I on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow morning at 8:40 AM for our continuing discussion of Pope John Paul's annual Holy Thursday Letter to Priests. We will tackle the 1989 Letter which follows on the heals of the release of Apostolic Exhortation on the Laity and deals with the role of the priest in building the laity into the People of God.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Travels, Celebrations and a Bronze Pelican

'Been awfully quiet 'round these parts the last few days!

Explanations are perhaps in order, along with my usual random musings on the events of the past few days.

Thursday and Friday last week saw all the priests in the state of Ohio gather for a convocation. Admittedly, most priests going in were not terribly excited by the prospects. It was a two day gathering on teh upcoming pastoral letter on marriage by the Bishops. (There's a line among priests: rather do 10 funerals to 1 wedding.) Thankfully, our fears were relieved and the presentations and discussions were very good, at least in your humble scribe's opinion.

Perhaps best of all was the opportunity to see preists that I knew from around the state whom I don't get a chance to see all too often, like since I was in seminary. I re-met guys whom I had played basketball against in inner-seminary ball tourneys; guys I was in class with at the Josephinum and had lost touch with, and just other priests from around the state. Truly a gift, and a realization that the presbyterate is bigger than just my diocese.

The Vocation Directors from around the state were able to gather and pow-wow on a number of topics, too. (One priest from the state was noticeably absent.....)

Friday night saw a wedding rehearsal in Minster, Ohio. My sister's youngest sister-in-law was getting married and had asked me to do the wedding, which I was happy to oblige. The wedding was on Saturday afternoon, and a great celebration and pulled in a number of ideas from the previous two days. (I love it when a plan comes together....)

After the dinner at the wedding, I hightailed it back to Cinci (about a two hour drive) for Masses on Sunday morning at the parish. The pastor and Sunday Associate both had been previously assigned at St. William's, which was celebrating 100 years and they both wanted to attend the anniversary gathering, so I gladfully took the later 2 Masses at the parish.

I sat down for bout an hour to watch the Bengals take on the Ravens. Luckily, I caught all the Bengals scoring, which leaves only one thing: WHO DEY!

Bout 1/2 way through the second quarter, I had to depart for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Catholic Committee on Scouting Adult Awards Dinner. As chaplain for scouting, it's a mandatory show, which I am glad to do. Archbishop Pilarczyk was on for the Mass, so I got to stand there as so much of a potted plant, which is a-ok with me! He had a nice reflection on the importance of scouting and gratitude for the adults who make scouting possible. He received the St. George Medal at the end of Mass, along with a few other nice gifts.

I wasn't serving just as chaplain, I was also up for the Bronze Pelican (Copper Chicken?) award. It is the highest honor that the diocese can give for recognition of contributions to scouting. I was awarded for my role as chaplain in addition to leading the last two summer retreats. I was honored to receive the award, thanks to all the scout leaders who made it possible.

Finally, my weekend wasn't quite over yet, as I had been coerced into leading a discussion for a Theology of the Body for Teens class on ToB's relation to celibacy. It was great fun, actually, and a good group of young people, bout 18 or so. I love getting in front of groups to talk on all these things and really enjoy the questions and comments that they give in feedback. There is hope among our young people, truly.

With that, my whirlwind tour came to end and I returned to the rectory. Tired, but a good kinda tired. Don't want to be at the office today, though.

Friday, November 6, 2009


This morning, I finished the novel 'Fatherless' by Brian Gail.

Not to give the story away, it is the story of Fr. John Sweeney, a priest of Philadelphia as he struggles to come to grips with the 'hard things' that Jesus asks of His disciples.

I highly recommend the read for those who are discerning the priesthood, as Gail weaves together many of the struggles that young priests face: wanting to preach the truth, but yet also wanting to be liked by his parishioners. Fr. Sweeney is a sympathetic figure and a good priest, who is struggling to be a great priest as he counsels three different families who are experiencing struggles of their own.

But it is not a book just for priests and/or seminarians, as Gail hits the hard topics of Catholic sexual ethics. He presents the arguments as to why the Church teaches as she does in a way that, I think, is at least digestible for those who are open to the truth.

At 530 pages, it is not a short read, and honestly I felt it could have been trimmed by a good 50 or so pages, but it moved well nonetheless and presents the modern struggle of living the faith while being in the world but not of the world. It isn't as easy as it seems, as being serious about the faith has consequences in real life.

Pick it up, read it, leave it for others.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Reading

Since the local football club is on their bye this week, let me propose to readings for you.

Second, the article I put together a few years ago combing through documents of the Church that outline the teaching.